Chapter 11

“If only I could hear your sorrow, shine on me again

I’d help you find your tomorrow, shine on me again.”

            -“Weave Me Some Sunshine”



“So Lance, what do you want to do for the big day?”

“Chris, I don’t want to do anything for my birthday. Just sleep. Or maybe have another movie night,” Lance replied, tired with his friend attempting to get him to go clubbing.

“Lance! You’re turning twenty-two! What kind of lame-ass birthday can you have with no partying?” Chris said in disbelief. “When I turned twenty-two, I stayed out till four a.m. with my friends, getting kicked out of all the best clubs,” he reminisced with a smile on his face. “Yup, those were the days.”

Lance rolled his eyes. “Sorry, but I don’t want to spend my birthday getting abused by bouncers.”

“Well,” Chris attempted another route, “Lillian’s only going to be here this once for your birthday. Don’t you think we should go out and show her how we like to get our groove on?”

“Honestly?” he answered, “I doubt she’d want to party with us. Lily’s not really the clubbing type.”

“Justin’s the clubbing type. And you can be the clubbing type when you feel like it. Justin will definitely come, and if you come, she won’t be able to say no!”

“Okay, Chris, Lily is not going to enjoy seeing Justin grinding up to various girls,” he said sensibly.

“Then we can doll her up real nice, and maybe some guys can take her mind of Justin for one night!” Chris said excitedly, glad that he had found a way around that obvious fact.

Lance thought about that option. It would be good for Lily to get out and meet some other people. It can’t be healthy for her to be in close contact with her crush every minute. And I don’t know, I do kind of want to get out and party.

“As long as you promise to never say ‘doll her up real nice’ again, we got a deal,” he gave in.

Chris jumped up, ecstatic. “Yes! We are gonna have so much fun, you won’t regret it. I’ll go talk it over with Tim and security.” He ran over to the phone and picked it up, dialing frantically for Tim’s cell.

Lance smiled, eager to help Lily get over her recent melancholy.


*                       *                       *                       *                       *


“I am not coming out in this!” Lillian exclaimed.

“Lilypad, open the door!” Joey shouted back, exasperated. “I’m sure you look fine.”

Lillian examined herself in the large bathroom mirror. Fine? If your idea of fine is prancing around naked, I guess I do look fine.

“Joey, this is too revealing! You are crazy to want me to wear this tonight. It’s . . . barely there.”

Joey sighed to Lance and Chris, who were looking over the other dresses and skirts he had bought that afternoon. “That’s the style now! Trust me,” he coaxed. “Now open the door and come out, or I’m coming in.”

He waited a few more seconds before he heard the lock click. The door slowly cracked open an inch, and Joey pushed it open the rest of the way impatiently. He invited himself into the bathroom and his eyes bugged when he saw her

Damn. I didn’t know our Lilypad could look so . . . hot. But he could also see a definite problem with the dress.

“You’re right. Take that one off. Way too revealing,” he decided, looking critically at the black dress’s cut and drape. “I don’t think Lance would appreciate it if I got his friend mauled by horny college guys.”

“I told you!” she said, poking a finger into his chest. “It’s not me at all.”

“No, it is you, if you allowed yourself to loosen up a little. But I don’t want to have to stand guard all night with you, beating off the male species with a stick. Wow, Lilypad, you should stop wearing jeans and sweats if this is what you’re hiding underneath,” he whistled appreciatively.

Lillian blushed all the way to the roots of her hair. “Joey, shut up,” she commanded, “And go find me a better dress. And by better I mean at least a yard of fabric!”

He obediently left her to undress, bowing backwards out the door. Lillian wasn’t voluptuous, and not exactly gorgeous like other women he had met. But her petite body did have some definite attractions. The graceful curves easily caught his experienced eye.

“Guys,” he whispered after the bathroom door had locked shut again, “You wouldn’t believe how hot Lilypad looked. Justin is going to freak!” he squeaked out.

Lance replied calmly, “I don’t think Lily wants Justin to freak.”

“No, I know what Justin likes, and he will like this. A lot,” Joey argued.

“She doesn’t want him to just lust after her for one night and then forget about the whole thing the next day. She wants his love, moron,” Chris said distractedly, picking up another dress and then discarding it with a toss.

“Chris is right,” Lance agreed, “If a little blunt. I bet she wants J to notice her for herself, not because of a low-cut dress.”

“Well, she’s not doing a very good job of that so far,” Joey replied sharply.

Lillian, changed back into her regular clothes, had been about to come out of the bathroom, wondering why Joey was taking so long to find another dress, when she had heard the last bits of his conversation with Chris and Lance. She quickly pulled the door shut again and locked it. Were her feelings for Justin that obvious?

Joey jerked his head up at hearing the door slam. “Shit. Please tell me that JC just walked in. Please,” he begged.

Lance shook his head. “Sorry, Joey. Go fix the mess you made,” he said, pushing Joey towards the bathroom. They could hear the small sniffles from behind the door. He gave Joey one last meaningful glance before going back to join Chris.

“Lilypad,” he cajoled. “Let me in, sweetheart.”  I am such an ass.

“No,” came the quiet reply. “I want to think for a second.”

“Okay,” he agreed. Exactly two seconds later, he spoke up again. “I gave you an extra second. Now let me come in and talk to you.”

“I don’t want to hear an apology, Joey. Not when you were right.”

He wasn’t expecting her to say that. “What do you mean?” he inquired.

She opened the door and allowed him to enter. Her eyes were a little watery, but she wasn’t weeping or anything. Thank god. I don’t know how to act around tears.

Lillian sat down on the edge of the bathtub and Joey pulled down the toilet bowl lid before positioning himself there, waiting for her to talk.

“I haven’t been doing a good job of getting noticed for myself,” she finally said, motioning for him to be quiet and listen to her. “And not only with Justin. Maybe I should just loosen up and wear that dress. All my life I’ve retreated when things got rough. I guess that’s why I’m like this now. Just got used to being overlooked.”

Joey nodded understandingly at her last statement. “I know what you mean,” he replied, smiling at her disbelieving gaze. “It’s true! But I’m not overlooked by women or in social situations. I’m overlooked in music. Everyone’s heard ‘N Sync’s songs, but has anyone actually heard Joey Fatone? No. Honestly, who the hell knows what a baritone voice does when there’s a bass around to sing all the low parts? I listen to our records, and at first I was so disappointed when I couldn’t pick out my own voice out of four others.”

“Joey,” she breathed, taking his hand comfortingly. “I never thought you felt this way.”

“Well, I don’t. Not anymore, at least. After a while, I figured that as long as I knew I was singing, then I was satisfied. Plus I’m not that big of an idiot, I know that JC and Justin have better voices. So then, because there was no way in hell I could stand out with singing, I decided to try other means.” He motioned to his huge glittery Superman chain and brightly colored orange hair.

Lillian laughed, seeing his unabashed grin. “I see. You decided to become the wild, funky one.”

“That, and the one who gets all the hot chicks.”

“Smart, Joey, very smart,” she approved.

“But wait, I’m not done yet!” he spoke up. “The moral of the story is: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” he said sagely.

“Uh, that has nothing to do with anything,” she answered baffled.

“Oh yeah. Sorry, I was just caught up in the moment. What I meant to say was: I didn’t try to force myself to become something that wasn’t real. I changed things to accommodate me. And look where I am now! If it worked for me, it can work for you!” he exclaimed like a weight-loss program patient.

“I get what you’re saying,” Lillian responded, nodding slowly. “I shouldn’t wear that dress just because it’ll get Justin’s attention.”

“Not exactly. If you feel comfortable with the dress, wear it. But I don’t want to coerce you into anything. What I said before was way out of line, and I’m really sorry.”

“You’re forgiven,” she smiled. “I don’t feel right in the dress, though. I need all the help I can get. Maybe we can find a compromise.”

Joey grinned widely. “Now you’re talking! I bet I can find the perfect dress. And not the perfect dress for Justin. The perfect dress for Lillian Oswald.”

She was deeply touched by his understanding. “Joey,” she pretended to cry, hugging him, “I didn’t even know you knew my last name!”


*                       *                       *                       *                       *


“I’m so lost,” Justin moaned.

“Come on, J, don’t be like this,” JC replied. “You just have to think your situation over, and weigh your options. Obviously you don’t like Elaine that much.”

“But if I tell her to get lost, I’m going to have to deal with her for the next three months of the tour.”

“Okay, then. You haven’t talked to Britney that much lately.”

“But she’s my friend.”

“If she’s your friend, then you should tell her the truth. I don’t think the two of you are really ready for such a high-profile relationship. Notice that she hasn’t called you much, either,” JC said observantly.

Justin mulled over that for a while. It’s true, she hasn’t called me. And I haven’t called her. We’ve been close friends for so long, and she’s always understood before. Brit will definitely understand now.

“You’re right, Jace. I’ll call Britney right now. I get the feeling that she regrets rushing things, too.”

JC nodded at his friend and left their hotel room, wanting to give him some privacy.

“Thanks, man!” Justin called as the door swung closed.


*                       *                       *                       *                      


“Where’s the birthday boy?” Justin impatiently demanded. He was dressed in his “playa clothes,” as Joey liked to say. Black slacks falling over his Timberlands and a shiny blue shirt left open to reveal his customary wifebeater. Accessories usually included a thick silver chain around his neck and a bandanna around his wild curls, but this time he had no need for the bandanna. Because the wild curls were shorn off.

At first his friends and Tim had been astounded at his new hairstyle. Going from an afro to a buzz cut was a little shocking, to say the least. But they had gotten used to it over the past hour or so, when Justin had joined them in the lobby. Tim had shaken his head, not daring to think of the reactions from the fans, but he remembered to tell them to not attract too much extra attention tonight before going back to his room.

Justin was happier than he had been in a long time. He didn’t tell anyone, but the liberating feeling of seeing the annoying curls disappear was his way of distancing himself from his recent problems. Britney had taken the news well, just as he knew she would. She had agreed that they had been too hasty in getting involved with each other, and they were now “just friends” once again.

Then they had talked for a long time, sharing what had happened to each of them in the past weeks. After he hung up the phone, he couldn’t prevent his joyful grin. It was then that he ran out into the streets with Todd, his hapless bodyguard, trying to keep up as he searched for a barbershop.

“He’s with Lillian right now,” Chris answered. “He’ll be down in a few, so simmer down now, boy!”

“How can I simmer down when we’re gonna go partying?! This will be so fun. In fact, I believe it will crunk,” he carefully pronounced the word, knowing how it would annoy Chris to no end.

Chris was in too good of a mood to care, and he simply covered his ears and sang to himself as Justin continued to repeat the word over and over.

“The ants go marching down the hill, two by two,” he sang loudly in an attempt to drown out Justin.

“Crunk, crunkalicious, crunking,” Justin persistently droned on. Then he launched into a rendition of his favorite Ginuwine song. “Said I’m sooo anxious, Lance would you quit that stalling, you know I’m a crunkaholic, I’m sooooo anxious,” he crooned, clutching his hands to his chest and gazing up above.

Joey laughed as Justin fell to his knees with a flourish, then he clapped and joined JC in a standing ovation. “Beautiful. The passion, the lyrics. Hand this man a Grammy!” he shouted to the passer-bys in the lobby.

In response they all hurried away, probably scared of the crazy man. JC and Justin laughed at their friend’s offended look.

“Don’t worry, Joey,” Justin said, “Some people just don’t recognize talent when they see it.”

Chris pulled his hands away from his ears when he saw Lance and Lillian approach them. Lance’s hair was perfectly in place with the help of his gel, and Lillian ditched her usual hairstyle and had pulled her dark strands into an elegant bun.

“About time, you guys! I was dying here. Never leave me alone with them again!” he begged.

“Sorry about the delay,” Lance rushed, heading to the limo waiting for them outside with Lillian by his side. “But now we can get start the party, cuz the man of the hour is here!”

The others whooped in approval and disregarding the curious and shocked gazes of the people around them, they ran to hop in the limo.

            Once their bodyguards were in the car behind them, and Todd was sitting up front with the driver, they pulled out of the hotel lane and merged with the other night traffic, their spirits as high as their rowdy voices and shouts.



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